Google Working In ‘Stealth Mode’ On Android Tablet?

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Funny how we didn’t hear much out of Google when the Apple iPad launched. If there’s one company that could legitimately compete by bringing a tablet with similar specs to market, it’d be Google and its Android operating system. While various Android tablets are available with 5- to 7-inch screens and 800×480 resolutions, it seems that it’d be relatively simple to produce a larger-screened, higher resolution tablet.

According to the New York Times, Google is “exploring the idea of building its own slate, an e-reader that would function like a computer.” Google CEO Eric Schmidt apparently “told friends at a recent party in Los Angeles about the new device, which would exclusively run the Android operating system,” and unnamed Google insiders “said the company had been experimenting in ‘stealth mode’ with a few publishers to explore delivery of books, magazines and other content on a tablet.”

With several big name computer makers scrambling to put out tablets, slates, or whatever you want to call them, Google seems best positioned to quickly deliver one that most closely matches the iPad as far as apps, content, and usability are concerned. And the fact that we haven’t heard too many announcements of 10-inch Android tablets from various manufacturers may indicate that Google’s indeed working on its own hardware like it did with the Nexus One instead of releasing a new version of Android optimized for bigger screens out into the wild for hardware manufacturers to use right away.

The most current version of Android, 2.1, only supports up to 854×480 resolution. So while companies are free to make big screen Android tablets right now, they’ll be hamstrung at that resolution until Google releases a new version of Android with support for higher resolutions. The idea here is that Google will shrewdly unveil the first hardware tablet with some sort of new, tablet-optimized Android version and then release the software to all the other manufacturers afterward. Google gets a head start, basically.

Of course, this is all speculation for now so take this news with a grain of salt. It’d definitely make things interesting if Google could get something to market quickly, at an aggressive price point, and with the same type of no-contract 3G option that Apple was able to finagle with AT&T.